Prevent Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens When Giving First Aid

While we hope it never happens, there may be a time where you have to help an injured coworker and provide first aid for any kind of blood-producing wound. So it's important to know about bloodborne pathogens (BBPs) and how to reduce the risks of contamination.

Bloodborne pathogens are diseases transmitted through contact with human blood or other bodily fluids. (Note: This does not include sweat. You can't get a bloodborne disease from someone else's sweat.)

These diseases include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B, and C, and tuberculosis (TB). The CDC also includes staph and strep infections, gastroenteritis-salmonella, and shigella, pneumonia, syphilis, malaria, measles, chicken pox, herpes, urinary tract infections, and blood infections.

600px-Biohazard_symbol_(red).jpgBasically, if a BBP enters another person's bloodstream through an open cut or a mucosal membrane (such as getting a blood droplet in your eye or nose), they can become infected and contract the same disease.

If someone becomes injured and you're going to provide first aid, it's important that you take steps to reduce your exposure to potentially-contaminated blood. This is sometimes referred to as Universal Precautions, which means treating all human blood and fluids (except sweat) as if they were known to to be infected with BBPs. That includes wearing the proper protective equipment when giving first aid.

All of our trucks and job sites have first aid kits that contain nitrile gloves (made from allergy-free products that feel like latex), face masks, micro-shields, and safety glasses. They must be used by all first aid providers before rendering any kind of first aid.

We also provide BBP kits for disposing of all medical waste and cleaning materials. All medical waste — bandages, bandage wrappers, medical sponges, nitrile gloves, cleaning material — must be placed in the appropriate bag and given to the first responders for proper disposal. If EMTs are on the scene, they have the facilities and know-how to properly dispose of the medical waste, so make sure they take it. If you transport an injured coworker to the hospital yourself, be sure to take the disposal bag with you. Do not just dispose of it in the regular trash or leave it behind.

When cleaning up, use the materials provided or a combination of bleach and water. Never reuse cleaning materials used to clean up medical waste. Dispose of everything once it has been used or even just opened.

If you believe you were exposed to biological fluids on the job site, or you notice that you or someone else failed to follow these precautions, notify your supervisor immediately. Even if the injured person is confident that they don't have any bloodborne diseases, that doesn't mean they don't. They could have been unknowingly exposed themselves years ago without realizing it.

Of course, the best way to prevent being exposed to BBPs is to avoid being injured in the first place. Practice safety at all times, and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

If you have any questions about protecting yourself from bloodborne pathogens, please ask your foreman. Remember to wear the right equipment if you have to administer first aid, even for small cuts and scrapes. And let your supervisor know if you think you were exposed, however briefly, to possible contamination.

Photo credit: MarianSigler (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Posted: 7/26/2018 1:00:00 PM by Abby Bath